Like the Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez whose favourite pastime apparently is to bite opponents on the football pitch, I, too, look forward to the moment when my teeth will sink into this solid mass of wheat flour, baking powder, sugar, margarine, vegetable oil, water, salt, egg powder, milk, mixed spice and sultanas. My mouth opens and...
The cookie crumbles.
The cookie. Crumbles. The massive, gigantic, solid-looking Rocky Bun crumbles and I’m left with little, middle and ring fingers holding the plate whilst forefinger and thumb keep the cookie from disintegrating totally. In my right hand I am holding a copy of the latest issue of Intelligent Life. To make it easier for you, readers and fellow bloggers, to understand what has just happened I will use the same example I used before. Imagine if Chiellini’s shoulder had dissolved entirely as Luis Suárez’ gnashers came into contact with it. There, I bet you have a better picture now. If only it were that easy to convince my erstwhile idol Diego Maradona of Luis’s excesses. But, alas, one can only hope so much!
Back to you, Emma. I wasn’t anticipating this. The reason why I chose your cookie was that it looked like the perfect companion for a leisurely Saturday evening sitting in front of the telly in between World Cup fixtures. Instead I have now crumbs all over my lap.
I know what you’re all thinking. Isis is advancing towards Baghdad in Iraq, they still haven’t found that missing plane in Malaysia, Asad is still holding onto power in Syria and the Ukraine-Russia stand-off shows no signs of abating. And yet, here is this idiot moaning about the consistency of a cookie. Goodness gracious me!
Let me come clear and say that it’s not Emma’s fault or her delicious, scrumptious cookies (yes, I ate it all and had “accidentally” my son’s as well. It’s all right, he doesn’t read my blog). It turns out I have been suffering from an “artisan” epidemic, a phenomenon brilliantly described by the writer Anthony Gardner in the latest issue of IntelligentLife.
In Anthony’s case it was the discovery of an artisan bakery in his north-west London patch that made him ponder over what he terms “Shoreditch-ification”, after the east London area that has come to symbolise hipster culture.
|Craft or con?
The raison d’être of this renascent artisan culture (customised artisan bikes, for Christ’s sake, costing more than a thousand pounds) can be explained and seen through the prism of its diametric opposition to a market relying on mass-produced, soulless, nameless, sweatshop-dependent products. In a world of identikit merchandise some of us want our cakes to stand out. Hence Emma’s message to her followers: I was a farm milk maid who had a dream of owning a business. With no money or business plan I began with a mixing bowl and wooden spoon in a tiny cottage using recipes from my childhood days on the farm. Years later we’re in a bakery with no conveyor belts or robots but lots of people making good old fashioned cakes.
The key words here are “childhood” and “old fashioned”. We’ve come round full circle. We might have iPads and smartphones but hanker for that touch of innocence that permeated our early years. The result is an industry that caters to our most individual whims whilst charging premium rates. As Anthony Gardner writes in his article of artisan shops, “Many other users of the word seem motivated less by high ideals than by the desire to jump on a lucrative bandwagon”. To sum up, the motivation might be noble, but the outcome is market-driven.
Personally, I don’t mind it that much. As I have often written on this blog, we, consumers, do have a choice. I want a new bike but you won’t see me paging through the pages of an artisan bike shop’s brochure because what they offer is out of my purchasing power. I love bread, homemade bread, bread made with a high degree of skilled labour, but I don’t see the need to pay three quid for a loaf.
As for Emma Country Cakes, guess where we buy them? Tescos’, or is it Asda? I've forgotten now. Yet, amidst so much sameness, they stand out. Her Rocky Buns might crumble whenever I do a Luis Suárez on them, but her Vanilla Fairies are to die for. And they are a bit more solid.
Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 2nd July at 11:59pm (GMT)